Comment on the remarks by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini following an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting

Submitted on Tue, 03/15/2016 - 00:23

Comment by the Information and Press Department on the remarks by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini following an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting

We have taken note of the remarks by Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, at a news conference following the March 14 meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.

Essentially, there was nothing new in these remarks. We have already heard each of the five “guiding principles,” as Ms Mogherini called them, in one way or another, which means that the EU has merely put the existing state of affairs on record.

As for the EU’s persistence linking any substantial change in its relations with Russia to the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, this insistent stance is becoming increasingly absurd against the background of Kiev’s inability to deliver on the agreements that have been reached: Ukraine finds various ways to evade its responsibilities by alluding to the inadequate security situation which results from its own actions. This goes to say that Brussels holds Russia-EU relations hostage to the Ukrainian authorities. With respect to the status of Crimea, this issue is not up for discussion, as is well known. What the West believes to be an illegal annexation, Russia views as the implementation of democratic principles as per the results of the referendum and restoration of historical justice.

Instead of learning a lesson from the de facto failure of the Eastern Partnership project, Brussels seems to be intent on requiring countries in Central Asia to make a far-fetched choice of whether to be with the EU or with Russia. We still believe that the proposal Russia had put forward earlier to create a single economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific could help prevent situations similar to that with Ukraine.

The attempt to link the need to strengthen the EU’s resilience in view of energy security to its relations with Russia is also perplexing. The energy security of consumer countries rests fully on their ability to establish a reliable and sustainable partnership relations with their suppliers. Russia is a key supplier of energy resources for the EU, and in fact acts as the main guarantor of its energy security. The latest irrational attempts by the EU to belittle its energy cooperation with Russia along with measures aimed at imposing administrative restrictions on the share of Russian energy resources on the EU market, including by enacting various legislative acts and strategies, only show that the EU is “quarrelling with its own bread and butter” to please outside players. In doing so, the EU is dismantling long-standing ties with Russia that have yielded positive results for decades.

Plans to develop so called “strategic communication” are somewhat reminiscent of the worst cases of Cold War propaganda. As far as we can judge by the operations of the East StratCom Team within the European External Action Service, its main objective is to invent fairy-tales about “hybrid threats” and the “almighty Russian propaganda.” The answer to the question of who would want to frighten EU public opinion by fairy-tales of this kind is obvious.

Regarding the stated willingness to step up the support of Russian civil society, this is a mere propaganda trick and doubletalk. Western capitals are fully aware of the broad public consensus in Russia on its independent foreign policy. If the EU does not know where to spend some extra cash, and is ready to invest in supporting a narrow marginal swath of the population that the EU views as the “right” people, we can advise Brussels to pay more attention to its own problems, such as the economic situation in some of its member states or the migrant crisis. It goes without saying that Russia will not tolerate any interference in its domestic affairs. As for perorations on the need to invest in people-to-people contacts, would not it make more sense to sign an updated version of the agreement to facilitate visa procedures, whose draft de facto is finalised already, and to bring the visa-free dialogue to its logical conclusion?

One of the main guiding principles of the EU’s relations with Russia is the stated need for “selective engagement” with Russia only in areas where there is a clear European Union interest. As is well known, Russia has stated on numerous occasions that it is ready to fully restore relations with the EU. That said, Russia wants to be able to make its own decisions, but today these choices are limited by the EU. Whether we will be able to have a full range of options will depend on mutually acceptable agreements, not unilateral approaches.

15 March 2016